Compassion is at the Heart of Farm Sanctuary: Q&A with HHAS Presenter Gene Baur
The nation’s leading nonprofit farm animal protection organization, Farm Sanctuary, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It was launched in spring 1986 by activists who investigated the treatment of animals at farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses and found conditions to be horrific and inhumane. One of these activists was Gene Baur.
Gene, who is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, will make his Holistic Holiday at Sea debut with us this spring, and we couldn’t be more excited! He has spent decades speaking to people about where they are on their journeys, debunking myths about veganism, and encouraging everyone to take steps in the right direction.
In addition to saving animals from the cruelty of factory farming, Farm Sanctuary encourages all of us to think about the way we live and to make mindful choices. Small decisions can make a big difference. By shifting to a plant-based diet, each of us can have an enormous impact on animals, the planet, and our own health.
As author of Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (March 2008) and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day (April 2015), Gene will deliver three lectures during the cruise, which runs March 11–18, 2017. Read more about his lectures titled Living the Farm Sanctuary Life; Kindness on Your Plate; and Veganism 101.
Farm Sanctuary currently operates in three locations in Watkins Glen, NY; Orland, CA; and Acton, CA, near Los Angeles. Jon Stewart, formerly of The Daily Show, and wife Tracey are partnering with the organization to open a sanctuary in New Jersey. We recently caught up with Gene and asked him some questions about himself, the vegan movement, and what he’ll bring to the cruise:
How have you seen the vegan movement change and shift since 1985 when you first began adopting a vegan lifestyle?
The vegan movement has expanded significantly since 1985 when I went vegan. The idea of living without exploiting other animals has become more widely understood and respected in our society, and the movement is expanding with businesses recognizing and creating opportunities for vegan products in the marketplace. We are also seeing growing awareness and concern about a convergence of issues, including environmental, health, social justice, and animal rights, which are spurring more people to consider vegan lifestyles. I am excited and optimistic about the future.
You say that kindness and compassion to animals, ourselves, and to the planet are what the vegan movement is all about. Many people choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle out of health concerns (the cruise, for example, was launched with a strong nutritional focus). Why do you think it’s important for the vegan movement not to lose its roots in compassion for animals? How do you see those three areas of compassion that you mentioned above intersect? Do you believe it’s important to not just focus on one of these three areas?
To me, being vegan is an aspiration to live as kindly as possible, and to create mutually beneficial relationships. These principles apply to how we relate to other animals and the earth, and how we relate to our own bodies. Eating healthy food is a way of being kind to ourselves and creating a mutually beneficial relationship between our food and our bodies. Different people are motivated in different ways, so I am in favor of speaking about all issues related to food, animals (including humans), and the earth. I came to veganism because I didn’t want to support the abuses of factory farming and slaughter, but other people stop eating animal products for health or other reasons. I don’t think the animals care why we stop killing and eating them—they just don’t want to be abused, killed and eaten.
In recent years, I’ve become more aware of the health benefits of eating plants and have started eating more whole, fresh foods. I also know people who stopped eating animal products to improve their health, and over time, they have grown increasingly aware and concerned about the abuses animals experience to produce meat, milk, and eggs. I believe many issues are relevant and interconnected, and should be part of the conversation and process.
Many of the attendees in the group have been practicing a vegan lifestyle for many years now and enjoy attending the cruise because they don’t have to worry about food choices and can hear from many speakers whom they admire. Some guests, on the other hand, have only just recently adopted a vegan diet and the cruise is helping them reinforce their decision. They’re newer to the movement. In terms of the lectures you’ll be giving at Holistic Holiday at Sea, what do you most look forward to sharing with both of these groups about the impact of food choices?
I am excited to meet both long time vegans and those who are just starting to learn about this lifestyle, and I look forward to learning about their experiences and motivations. I believe that eating mindfully, and eating plants instead of animals is empowering and improves our lives, both physically and emotionally. It is liberating to eat food that improves our health instead of making us sick. It also feels good to consciously lessen the amount of suffering and violence in the world, and to eschew some of our planet’s most significant ecological threats. Being vegan is good for animals, the earth, and us. It’s a win, win, win.
Join Gene at HHAS
Inspired by Gene’s words and actions? Book your spot aboard Holistic Holiday at Sea today! Click here to view a full program schedule and explore our wonderful line-up of influencers and experts on plant-based living.